The Kitchen Presents Vijay Iyer Residency, THE WHAT OF THE WORLD

The Kitchen presents Grammy nominee, MacArthur fellow composer-pianist Vijay Iyer's The What of the World (June 25-29), one of three weeklong residencies within The Racial Imaginary Institute's series On Whiteness. Iyer-noted in a New Yorker feature as "the most lauded piano player in jazz"-assembles a jaw-dropping group of cutting-edge artists across musical disciplines and creates what he refers to as an "affective archaeology" of systemic racism. This multifaceted residency is an exploration, from many perspectives, of what racial oppression feels like. Iyer's residency features four evening performances, as well as Iyer's new sound installation-titled How the Spotlight Sounds, with texts by Garnette Cadogan, author of "Walking While Black"-playing throughout the week.

For his residency, even within a series addressing the subject of Whiteness, Iyer was very deliberate in giving centrality to voices of color-bringing together multiple collaborators and other artists, who, within their daily lives, navigate through the racialized obstacles of white supremacist society.

Participants in The What of the World include composer and vocalist Imani Uzuri, with Wild Cotton, animprovised work considering the songs and undocumented soundscapes of American slavery; legendary composer and trumpet player Wadada Leo Smith-known for his Pulitzer-nominated four-and-a-half-hour set of suites meditating on the civil rights movement, Ten Freedom Summers-in a new collaboration with Iyer; Mike Ladd, "one of contemporary hip-hop's great innovators," (Pitchfork) witha new work based on interviews with black police officers-including the police commissioner who recently gave a statement of apology after the arrest of two black men sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks; and Himanshu Suri (Heems of Das Racist and Swet Shop Boys), Pakistani American vocalist Arooj Aftab, and Iyer in their collaborative project Kebab Uncle, an incendiary memoir about being brown in post 9/11 America; as well as Portuguese vocalist Sara Serpa with Recognition, a multimedia sensorial experience about the colonial past of Angola and her own family's history within it.

The installation piece How the Spotlight Sounds juxtaposes Iyer's music-played on a Spirio Steinway self-playing piano-with recorded voices reading text by Garnette Cadogan. The words distill and further the themes explored in Cadogan's celebrated essay, "Walking While Black," which detailed the shock to his system, upon moving to New York from Jamaica, in finding that he was no longer as free to enjoy basic liberties associated with everyday life.

Iyer's residency is part of a collaboration between The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII) and The Kitchen that expands upon the TRII's first year of research on Whiteness, which TRII founder Claudia Rankine has described as "a source of unquestioned power [that], as a 'bloc,' feels itself to be endangered even as it retains its hold on power." Iyer's residency takes its title from a phrase in Sara Ahmed's "A Phenomenology of Whiteness"-a foundational text for the entire On Whiteness project, in which she describes whiteness as an "ongoing and unfinished history, which orientates bodies in specific directions, affecting how they 'take up' space, and what they 'can do.'" In her final paragraph, where the residency's titular phrase occurs, she articulates:

It is by showing how we are stuck, by attending to what is habitual and routine in 'the what' of the world, that we can keep open the possibility of habit changes, without using that possibility to displace our attention to the present, and without simply wishing for new tricks.

On Whitenesscomes to The Kitchen from June 27 to August 3, and seeks to disorient bodies habituated to spaces of white dominance through a large-scale group exhibition; a symposium on June 30; artist residencies with Iyer, Dark Noise Collective, and Jackie Sibblies Drury; newly commissioned performances from Marguerite Hemmings, Seung-Min Lee, and Angie Pittman; and a network of parallel programs at partner organizations throughout the city. It is organized by the curatorial teams of The Racial Imaginary Institute and The Kitchen.



Sara Serpa: Recognition
7pm, FREE

Sara Serpa, voice, compositions; Mark Turner, saxophone; David Virelles, piano; with a silent film directed by Serpa and produced by Bruno Soares.

Portuguese vocalist Sara Serpa presents Recognition, a haunting exploration of her own family's colonial history in Angola, in a stellar trio with saxophonist Mark Turner and pianist David Virelles, performing with archival footage.


Vijay Iyer/Garnette Cadogan: How the Spotlight Sounds (installation)
12pm-6pm, FREE


Vijay Iyer/Garnette Cadogan: How the Spotlight Sounds (installation)
2pm-3:30pm and 6-7:30pm, FREE

Ticketed Performance
8pm, $25/$20 members

Ganavya & Ranja

Rajna Swaminathan, mrudangam (South Indian percussion); Ganavya Doraiswamy, voice; plus special guests.

Percussionist Rajna Swaminathan and vocalist Ganavya present new work at the nexus of Indian musical traditions and creative music, reflecting "on whiteness and the various alchemies of power."

Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith: Deep Time (American Meditations)

Wadada Leo Smith, trumpet; Vijay Iyer, piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics

Iyer joins trumpeter-composer and creative music icon Wadada Leo Smith in a duo work, Deep Time: American Meditations, a series of musical tableaux memorializing the ongoing struggle for equality.


Vijay Iyer/Garnette Cadogan: How the Spotlight Sounds (installation)
12pm-2pm, FREE

Ticketed Performance
8pm, $25/$20 members

Imani Uzuri: Wild Cotton
Imani Uzuri, voice; Kassa Overall, drums

Vocalist-composer Imani Uzuri presents a meditation on "the undocumented soundscapes of enslaved Black-American ancestors that still haunt us today."

Mike Ladd: Blood Black and Blue
Mike Ladd, lyrics, electronics, interviews; Ursula Rucker, lyrics; HPrizm, lyrics, electronics; Vijay Iyer, piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics; Marvin Sewell, guitar; Kassa Overall, drums, electronics; Imani Uzuri, voice

Poet/producer Mike Ladd joins Iyer and Uzuri, poet Ursula Rucker, producer/emcee HPRizm, and others in Blood Black and Blue, "a contemporary story about encounters of police of color with victims of the same race," based on dozens of interviews with African Americans in law enforcement.


Vijay Iyer/Garnette Cadogan: How the Spotlight Sounds (installation)
11am-4pm, FREE

Ticketed Performance
8pm, $25/$20 members

Latasha N. Nevada Diggs: Trix Are for Kids
Latasha N. Nevada Diggs, poetry & sounds

Poet and sound artist Latasha N. Nevada Diggs performs a solo set of "black and brown poetics that are never basic."

Arooj Aftab
Arooj Aftab, voice; Vijay Iyer, piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics; Shahzad Ismaily, electric bass.

Pakistani American vocalist Arooj Aftab performs from Bird Under Water, her latest albumthat that undulates and scintillates with dark post-pop meets mystic muse. A masterful expression of lyrical and acoustic soul, tripped out through analog voltage and experimental digital filters.

Kebab Uncle
Himanshu Suri, lyrics; Arooj Aftab, voice; Vijay Iyer, piano, Fender Rhodes, electronics; Shahzad Ismaily, electric bass; Kassa Overall, drums.

Queens indie rapper Himanshu Suri and Pakistani American singer Arooj Aftab collaborate with Iyer on Kebab Uncle, an incendiary memoir of being brown in post-9/11 New York.

Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer (pronounced "VID-jay EYE-yer") has been voted DownBeat Magazine's Artist of the Year three times-in 2016, 2015 and 2012-and Artist of the Year in Jazz Times' Critics' Poll and Readers' Poll for 2017. Iyer was named Downbeat's 2014 Pianist of the Year, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist. In 2014 he began a permanent appointment as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts in the Department of Music at Harvard University.

Iyer has released twenty-two albums covering remarkably diverse terrain, most recently for the ECM label. The latest of those is Far From Over (2017), the first from the Vijay Iyer Sextet. The record was ranked #1 in US National Public Radio's annual Jazz Critics' Poll, surveying 157 critics. It was named among the best jazz albums of the year in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Slate, and The New York Times, and the only "jazz release" in Rolling Stone's list of the 50 best records of 2017. Iyer's Sextet was subsequently voted 2018 Jazz Group of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Iyer's previous ECM releases include A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (2016), a collaboration with Iyer's "hero, friend and teacher," Wadada Leo Smith, which the Los Angeles Times calls "haunting, meditative and transportive"; Break Stuff (2015); Mutations (2014); and Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi (2014), "his most challenging and impressive work, the scintillating score to a compelling film by Prashant Bhargava" (DownBeat), performed by International Contemporary Ensemble and released on DVD and BluRay.

Iyer's trio (Iyer, piano; Marcus Gilmore, drums; Stephan Crump, bass) made its name with three tremendously acclaimed and influential albums: Break Stuff (2015), Accelerando (2012) and Historicity (2009). Iyer's 2013 collaboration with poet Mike Ladd, Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project, based on the dreams of veterans of color from America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was hailed as #1 Jazz Album of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and described in JazzTimes as "impassioned, haunting, [and] affecting." Along with their previous projects In What Language? (2004) and Still Life with Commentator (2007), Holding It Down rounded out a trilogy of politically searing albums about post-9/11 American life.

Iyer's accomplishments extend well beyond his recordings. His recent composer commissions include "Torque" (2018) written for So Percussion; "Asunder" (2017) written for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; "Trouble" (2017) for Violin and Orchestra, written for Jennifer Koh and premiered at Ojai and Tanglewood Music Festivals; "City of Sand" (2017) for A Far Cry plus members of Silk Road Ensemble; and many more. His orchestral work Interventions was commissioned and premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in 2007 under the baton of Dennis Russell Davies. It was praised by the New York Times as "all spiky and sonorous," and by the Philadelphia City Paper for its "heft and dramatic vision and a daring sense of soundscape."

An active electronic musician and producer, Iyer displays his digital audio artistry on his own recordings Still Life with Commentator, Holding it Down, Mutations, and Radhe Radhe, and in his remixes for British Asian electronica pioneer Talvin Singh, Islamic punk band The Kominas, and composer-performer Meredith Monk.

A polymath whose career has spanned the sciences, the humanities, and the arts, Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from the University of California, Berkeley. He has been featured as Artist-in-Residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Wigmore Hall (London), the Molde Jazz Festival (Molde, Norway), SF Jazz, and Jazz Middelheim (Antwerp, Belgium), and served as Music Director for the 2017 Ojai Music Festival in southern California. He is a Steinway artist and uses Ableton Live software.

About The Racial Imaginary Institute

Because no sphere of life is untouched by race, The Racial Imaginary Institute, founded by poet, essayist, and playwright Claudia Rankine in 2016, gathers under its aegis an interdisciplinary range of artists, writers, knowledge-producers, and activists. It convenes a cultural laboratory in which the racial imaginaries of our time and place are engaged, read, countered, contextualized and demystified. The curatorial team-including Rankine, curators LeRonn P. Brooks, Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, and Simon Wu, poets Monica Youn and Cathy Park Hong, playwrights Casey Llewellyn and Steven Glavey, and producer and publicist Sara'o Bery-organizes art exhibitions, readings, dialogues, lectures, performances, and screenings that engage the subject of race.


The Kitchen is one of New York City's most forward-looking nonprofit spaces, showing innovative work by emerging and established artists across disciplines. Our programs range from dance, music, performance, and theater to video, film, and art, in addition to literary events, artists' talks, and lecture series. Since its inception in 1971, The Kitchen has been a powerful force in shaping the cultural landscape of this country, and has helped launch the careers of many artists who have gone on to worldwide prominence.

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